It’s no secret that carrying excess pounds can lead to serious health consequences–but did you know that it can also raise your risk for certain types of cancer? Alarming numbers from recent studies conclude that the vast majority of American adults are overweight or obese--and it appears to be a trend that is a growing problem among US children as well.
Research shows that higher amounts of body fat can increase the risk for several types of cancer, including kidney cancer, liver cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, endometrial cancer, esophageal cancer, pancreatic cancer, gallbladder cancer, thyroid cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, and breast cancer (in women past menopause). Obesity also increases the risk for developing advanced prostate cancer, which is the most dangerous stage of the disease.
The Weight-Cancer Connection
Excess body fat is connected to the increased risk of cancer in several different ways, which include:
- Increased levels of certain hormones, such as estrogen, that are linked to the development of some cancers when too much is present.
- Chronic low-level inflammation in various areas of the body, which can increasingly cause DNA damage that leads to cancer.
- Overgrowth of factors that regulate cell growth, such as insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1).
This simply means that excess weight affects the body’s functions that are designed to keep us healthy. When a body cannot function properly, it can lead to various health problems, one of which could be cancer.
Making Healthy Life Changes
The good news is that it’s never too late to start living a healthier lifestyle! Many obesity-related cancers can be prevented–but it takes action and commitment.
The best way to start reducing your cancer risk is to shed some unnecessary pounds by decreasing the calories you consume and increasing the calories you burn.
Where do you begin?
- Increase your physical activity, aiming for 150 minutes of moderate activity (such as walking, gardening, or water aerobics) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (such as jogging, swimming laps, or aerobic classes) per week
- Be more aware of your food portion sizes - Visit the American Heart Association for more information on portion size vs. serving size.
- Eat more antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, healthy fats, and lean protein (poultry and fish)
- Limit red meat consumption to no more than 18 ounces (cooked weight) per week
- Eliminate added sugars, fried foods, and refined carbohydrates such as pasta, white rice, and soft sandwich bread
- Avoid processed foods that include additives such as trans fats, monosodium glutamate (MSG), food dyes, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives
- Avoid processed meats like bacon, deli meats, and hot dogs
- Drink alcohol, which contains unnecessary calories and sugar, in moderation
The American Cancer Society has a good list of Basic Ingredients for a Healthy Kitchen.
While there is still much to learn about the link between weight loss and cancer risk, people who are overweight or obese should consider taking steps to lose weight. Losing even a small amount of weight can lead to better overall health.
Compass Oncology has an exceptional team of cancer specialists, who are here to provide you with the best of care. Our oncologists are available to treat patients at 5 locations in Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA. We also have a registered dietitian on staff to analyze each patient’s nutritional needs and design a personalized program to support symptom and cancer treatment side effect management.